A great health investment

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanks to the American Red Cross and the Obici Healthcare Foundation, people in Suffolk are a lot safer now from the risk of sudden cardiac arrest than they were a month ago.

A big grant from the foundation has funded the purchase of 65 automated emergency defibrillators, which have been placed in locations around Suffolk. The machines, which anyone can work with the step-by-step instructions that are included, can help restart a heart that has stopped as a result of sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, according to the National Institutes of Health. When it occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs; death usually occurs in minutes if the patient doesn’t get treatment. Though people with heart disease have a higher chance of being victims of such an attack, most happen to people who appear to be healthy and have no known heart disease or risk factors.

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Since 95 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest die from it, any effort to provide the automated defibrillators that represent the first treatment step can make a huge impact.

The fact that the Obici Healthcare Foundation chose to tackle sudden cardiac arrest as a part of its mission to support “programs that have the primary purpose of preventing illness and disease” proves that the two-year-old organization is both serious and smart about how to spend its money.

Automated defibrillators may not have to the pizzazz of a shiny new MRI machine or any number of other medical gadgets that the foundation probably was asked to consider funding this year. But they’re likely to have an effect on the health of Suffolk’s citizens far beyond their cost.